Georges Niang: Donovan Mitchell “Has Taken Front Seat” As Jazz Leader

Jul 2, 2020, 4:56 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – While the NBA has been on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, guard Donovan Mitchell has been busy taking the reins of the Utah Jazz. As the team prepares to resume the season in Orlando, forward Georges Niang says Mitchell has been active as the team’s leader during the league’s suspension.

While the NBA halts play every summer, this hiatus has been unlike any previous stoppage in league history. During the break, the league has been forced to deal with the fallout from COVID-19 and the racial injustice protests that have swept the nation.

Like the NBA, the Jazz have found themselves embroiled in the national news. Mitchell and teammate Rudy Gobert were the first NBA players to test positive for the virus, pushing the league to suspend the season. After the death of George Floyd, players across the NBA, including Mitchell, used their platform to fight for greater equality.

Mitchell Becoming A Leader

Though Mitchell has remained mostly quiet during the NBA’s hiatus, Niang says the guard’s leadership has flourished behind the scenes.

“Donovan has kind of taken the front seat to the leadership role with this team,” Niang said. “And he’s grown every year that he’s been here in that role.”

Mitchell’s leadership on the floor has never been in question. The guard is on the verge of completing his third season with the Jazz over which he has led the team in scoring each season while qualifying for the postseason. Now, faced with social and personal issues, Niang said Mitchell has continued to evolve.

“[Mitchell was] one of the first NBA players to test positive,” Niang said. “And to deal with that and to make sure you’re okay — taking care of the leadership role of the team, he did a great job.”

Earlier in the day, Mitchell addressed his relationship with Gobert during a conference call with media members. The guard said he rejected commenting on the duo’s relationship because it was taking attention away from his Jazz teammates.

“We’re going out there ready to hoop,” Mitchell said. “And I think the biggest thing that kind of sucked was that it took away from the guys on the team. It took away from what the guys on the team we’re trying to do.”

Uniting The Jazz

Though Mitchell was forced to deal with personal health issues over the break, Niang said the guard used the hiatus to stay in touch with his Jazz teammates.

“He did a great job of making sure he checked in on everybody while everything was going on,” Niang said. “Whether if it was hopping on FaceTime workouts, over quarantine, or just FaceTiming guys individually and ask asking their certain opinions on racial issues. He’s really spearheaded that and been at the helm of the ship.”

Last week, Jazz coach Quin Snyder spoke on Mitchell’s leadership in light of the social justice protest. Snyder mentioned Mitchell finding his voice online was a source of pride.

“I’m extremely proud of Donovan that he’s articulating, even in the form of a post,” Snyder said of Mitchell’s Juneteenth post. “Obviously, that’s a form of expression. It’s something that he feels that it’s important personally and important to our society.”

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Niang echoed the Jazz coach’s sentiments on Mitchell as a leader, both as a fellow player and a friend.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be a friend of him but even a teammate,” Niang said. “I think it just speaks volumes his character and how he is. He’s gonna try to do the right thing all the time. And he tried to do that with COVID and now he’s doing it with social issues in America. And I think it’s really important that our leader and the guy that we look up to, is so consistent when it comes to doing the right thing.”

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Georges Niang: Donovan Mitchell “Has Taken Front Seat” As Jazz Leader